Maui: Protesters Stop Haleakala Telescope Construction Convoy
Visitor Arrivals Jump 9.3%
Even Where Gay Marriage is Legal, It’s not Equal
Judicial Activism From Supreme Court on Marriage
Rail Fail: Caldwell Admits He Was Lying About Massive Property Tax Hike used to Justify GE Tax Extension
SA: This past winter, Honolulu’s mayor told state lawmakers that the city would need to increase property taxes 30 to 43 percent if the state refused to extend the tax surcharge funding rail.
However, most of that estimated property tax increase would go toward building future rail line extensions — not toward completing the existing cash-strapped project, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office confirmed in a statement this week.
The acknowledgment comes after recently released emails from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation estimated that the city would have to raise the median property tax bill by 5.6 percent to cover the existing project’s massive shortfall.....
Caldwell and other rail leaders have said they need the extension now to keep construction going next year.
“Let’s say we didn’t get any more money. To raise the money to pay and operate this system, we’re talking … about raising real property taxes in the 30 to 43 percent range,” Caldwell said Jan. 26, addressing a question about funding options from state Rep. Ty Cullen (D, Waipahu-Royal Kunia-Makakilo).
The exchange came during Caldwell’s two-hour grilling by Cullen and other legislators at the start of this year’s legislative session, as they began to consider the best way to proceed on rail.
“Thirty to 43 percent range, and I don't think you as a rep of your area would be suggesting to the city to raise your residents’ property taxes like that. I sure wouldn’t want to,” Caldwell said.
He also said those were “rough numbers.”
In late April, following repeated requests for more details on those numbers, Caldwell’s office said it was unable to produce data supporting the figures.
However, this week his office did provide figures that it said came from HART. They included the 5.6 percent increase for construction, along with an 8 percent increase to cover operating costs and a 24.8 percent increase to cover roughly $4 billion in future extensions to central Kapolei and the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus....
Ultimately the Legislature passed a five-year extension, which still sits on Ige’s desk....
Last Week: Excuse for Tax Hike Evaporates as New bids for rail stations come in $9M below estimates
read ... Mayor’s tax warning not about shortfall
Martin vs Caldwell: Petty Amateurs Duke it Out
Borreca: ...in mostly petty ways, Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Mayor Kirk Caldwell are circling each other, throwing a few jabs....
Caldwell claims Martin is putting on the gloves for next year’s main event, the mayor’s race. Martin is not denying that he is interested, but won’t say anything definite.
But consider the level of the Martin and Caldwell trash talk as reported by Hawaii Public Radio.
Here’s Martin on Caldwell never asking for funding for city projects:
“As important as he felt these issues were, he never once talked to me. He never called me, offered to share with me. We attend various social functions, ground-breaking events — never mentioned this as an area that needed my attention.”
Here’s Caldwell on a relationship going sour:
“When I became mayor, I had a standing lunch meeting every other week, and after a couple of months he stopped coming. I asked a few times and when he didn’t come, I took it off my calendar.”
Along the way, there has been some hissing about Caldwell letting the Council-passed city budget becoming law without his signature because the Council was giving money for its own homeless program advisers but not giving to Caldwell’s homeless programs advisers.
These two are amateurs. The movie we want to watch is “Frank Fasi vs. All Councils.” ....
read ... Petty Amateurs
University: Mauna Kea Resolution in Ige's Hands
HTH: Under the supervision of Mauna Kea rangers, several dozen TMT opponents removed the obstructions placed over 2 miles of Mauna Kea Access Road on Wednesday to force police and construction workers to head back down the mountain.
That was good enough to allow telescope operators to reach their observatories atop Mauna Kea, but the TMT opponents refused to touch two ahus they built in the roadway, and state officials had yet to reach a decision on how to remove them.
The road, a University of Hawaii spokesman said, would remain closed to the public until further notice.
“We’re working towards that and we hope to have a resolution as soon as possible,” said Dan Meisenzahl, UH director of media production.
“A lot of this, unfortunately, is out of Mauna Kea management’s and UH’s hands.”
The university manages the road and Mauna Kea Science Reserve.
Meisenzahl said there were “a lot of things at play” and that Gov. David Ige and state attorneys are involved.
read ... At Play
Arrested protesters post bail, return to Hawaii mountain
AP: A dozen people were arrested Wednesday, charged with obstructing and then released after posting $250 bail. Bail was $1,000 for one person who had a previous arrest, police said.
"Sorry, just got out of jail," Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, said in a text message to The Associated Press. He said he was waiting for the last person to be released from the Hilo police station so they could return to the mountain, more than 40 miles away.
Protesters said a group of them plan to continue camping on the mountain in case workers try to restart construction.
The road up the mountain remained closed Thursday, a day after the University of Hawaii, which is responsible for Mauna Kea stewardship, closed it for safety reasons. University spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said some protesters refused to leave.
(Unwilling to apply force,) a ranger negotiated with protesters Thursday to take down four rock walls so observatory workers could get up the mountain to do maintenance, Meisenzahl said. There are 13 other telescopes on Mauna Kea.
W.M. Keck Observatory officials said the obstructions also affected night operations, and "going forward, feasibility of operations will be assessed on a day-by-day basis."
"Just as all the current observatories respect the protestors' right to peacefully demonstrate on the mountain, we hope that they will respect our desire to continue the work that contributes to Hawaii being the home of the most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth," said a statement from the observatory.
Protester Deborah J. Ward said she sensed conflicting feelings from state law enforcement officers, who she said likely have friends and relatives who oppose the telescope.
"I saw officers crying and expressing their regret for wearing the uniform," she said, adding that she saw some of them exchange honi, a traditional forehead-to-forehead greeting, with protesters....
read ... OHA Still Hasn't been Paid
University Conspires to Keep media out as Protesters Clear Rocks
KITV: What happened on the mountain top Thursday took some state officials by surprise, but according to the state's top lawyer, the decision about access sits squarely at the University of Hawaii.
But confusion about why access was OK for some and not others and a deal not to allow any filming had the university apologizing once again.
"I think there may have been some miscommunication between the rangers and the protestors about the conditions under which they went up there and we apologize for the confusion," said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzthal.
Even the attorney general recognized problems with blocking some media while allowing others to stay.
“As soon as we were made aware of it, the rangers went there and they asked them to leave. The cameraman did (no pictures, eh!), the reporter did not (1000 words are not worth a picture). We do not have law enforcement powers, so they couldn't not do anything," said Meisenzthal (but the media followed orders anyway).
"The logic would seem to indicate that if you are going to escort people up to move the rocks, than let's escort people to allow them to record what is going on," said Chin.
While advocates for equal access worked the phones in Honolulu, it still took five hours to sort everything out.
"People need to be allowed to be recording what's going on, and with an escort that make it able to go up safely," said Chin.
Chin also underscored that conservation district rules don't allow for rocks to be moved. He warned blocking access with boulders could trigger more arrests if it happens again.
read ... UH apologizes for delayed media access to Mauna Kea
Star-Adv: Clock is Ticking on Hawaii's Obamacare Waiver Application
SA: ...Before and after the implementation of the ACA, Hawaii business leaders were angling instead to take advantage of grandfather clauses enabling them to keep their current plans rather than switch, all to avoid the complexities imposed by the new federal rules.
Besides, said Beth Giesting, the state’s health care transformation coordinator, the state is already in the midst of petitioning for a waiver that should enable Hawaii to find more flexibility within the law’s requirements.
Giesting is part of the ACA State Innovation Waiver Task Force, preparing to request an “innovation waiver” for Hawaii from select provisions of the ACA. That waiver won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, but actually the clock is already ticking.
The Ige administration must finalize its waiver proposal this fall so it can be presented for approval by the state Legislature.
The federal authorities want six months to review the proposal, so getting it through the coming lawmaking session is essential.
Giesting’s office presented a preliminary report this past session on the issue.
According to that report, it’s already clear that the state could get a waiver from definitions of plan types and required benefits, the rules concerning exchanges and many other sections of the law.
Clearly what needs to emerge is a waiver proposal that embraces the best parts of the ACA — the coverage guarantees for those with pre-existing conditions, for example, and coverage for children up to age 26 — but keeps the framework as similar to the Prepaid Health Care Act as possible.
The state law has surpassed Obamacare, in the breadth of coverage and the level of benefits, among other ways. Being allowed to preserve that successful model as a launching pad for further improvements would be the best outcome for Hawaii.
read ... ACA safe, but Hawaii needs waiver
Sierra Club Attack on Agriculture Schizophrenic
KE: Has anyone else noticed the schizophrenia of Hawaii's agri/enviro activism?
On the one hand, we have the Sierra Club suing to prevent the reclassification of 1,500 acres of ag land on Oahu for the 11,750-unit Hoopili housing project. It is arguing, in part, that the state isn't doing enough to designate Important Ag Lands, and this land meets all the criteria.
On the other, we have the Sierra Club and its attorney, EarthJustice, actively working with self-proclaimed “green” groups and “aloha aina warriors” to destroy agriculture on acreage already classified as Important Ag Land.
Through lawsuits and direct action, they are aggressively targeting seed operations on all islands, a proposed Kauai dairy and Maui's HC&S — the largest farm in the state.....
A case in point: last night's “sugarcane burn moratorium” meeting on Maui. Here's a shot of the “locals for local change” crowd. Looks an awful lot like mainlanders who chose to buy homes in Kihei knowing HC&S was burning cane, but now they want it stopped....
CB: Hawaii Supreme Court Weighs Preserving Hoopili Farmland
read ... Schizophrenia
Hawaii Supreme Court rules against county marijuana initiative
HTH: The Hawaii Supreme Court on Thursday snuffed out proponents’ hopes of enforcing a voter-approved ballot initiative making adult personal use of marijuana on private property the lowest law enforcement priority of Hawaii County.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by a group of marijuana activists led by (convicted drug dealer) Michael Doyle Ruggles. Defendants in the suit included all county council members at the time plus those who were members when the initiative passed, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Police Chief Harry Kubojiri, then-Prosecutor Jay Kimura and two deputies, Charlene Iboshi and Mitch Roth, who both later became county prosecutor.
In a 27-page opinion written by Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna, the court said the county is unable to enforce the Lowest Law Enforcement Priority voter initiative simply because it conflicts with state law. Although the Intermediate Court of Appeals, in upholding a lower court’s ruling, came to that same conclusion, the Supreme Court decided to accept the case on appeal to clarify the state’s pre-emption powers because the intermediate court included other findings the Supreme Court found unnecessary....
Ruggles, who has been acting as his own attorney, said Thursday that he plans to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court because “the logic is flawed.” (LOL!)
Ruggles said the decision could have far-reaching impacts, and might forecast similar rulings on issues such as a Maui voter referendum regulating genetically modified crops in the future.
Related: How to Use Anti-GMO Ordinances to Seize Marijuana Plants: A Guide for Police Departments
read ... Rejected Again
Hawaii Traffic Up 8.1%
AP: Indiana had the most unadjusted single-state traffic increase at 14.8 percent. This figure is in comparison with April 2014. Hawaii stands in second place with an 8.1 percent increase and North Dakota is third with a 7.4 percent increase. The data shows that the nation’s transportation infrastructure requires more investments.
read ... Traffic
After Getting Big Fat Raise, UPW Returns EMS to 8 hr Shifts
KHON: KHON2 obtained an email dated June 24, 2015 which was sent by EMS Director Mark Rigg. The email states that the pilot project will end on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015 and that the current 12 hour schedule will be returned to the eight hour schedule effective Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015.
KHON2 reached out to the department for more information. Why were they going back to the eight hour shifts? Did they hire more workers to deal with the staffing issues?
While the email we have says the changes are going to happen, we received a statement from Rigg saying that “negotiations between the city and the United Public Workers union are ongoing and no final decisions on the schedule have been reached.”
Remember This? UPW Scores Massive Pay Hikes After Disrupting Honolulu Ambulance Service
read ... Fat Raise in Hand, Back to Drawing Board